The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) has 135 national deaf associations listed as members. 40 percent of them have not paid the membership fee this year. Therefore, the WFD has been forced to destaff its secretariat. In addition, the WFD risks having fewer member states next year.
(The article has previously been published in the printed version of the Swedish Deaf Magazine. Here we publish an English version of the article.)
Unpaid membership fees have become a bigger problem than ever – some national deaf associations have not even paid their annual fee to the WFD since 2008. This despite repeated reminders from the federation. Now the unpaid membership fees are equivalent to just over 70,000 euros total.
– Not only national deaf associations in developing countries have not paid, but also deaf associations in developed countries. The fact that a country is rich does not necessarily mean that their deaf association is too, says Eeva Tupi, executive director of the WFD.
– Why they haven’t paid can have several reasons. For example, some national deaf associations in Africa do no longer receive contributions from Nordic deaf associations and therefore have a strained economy. Another argument is that the global economy is getting worse now.
Last November, the WFD has been obliged to cut their secretariat because of risen costs. Two employees have gone down from full-time to part-time. Unpaid membership fees are a reason. Two other reasons are that it is uncertain how much the WFD, which has its headquarters in Helsinki, Finland may receive in funding from the Finnish state next year, and that the WFD has not yet received their share of the revenue from the WFD Congress 2015 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Now the WFD is working intensively on having dialogue with all the non-paying associations before the year ends. Hope is that they can pay the membership fee.
According to their statutes, a national deaf association that has not paid the membership fee within three months may lose its right to send its delegates to the General Assembly, and to vote, write motions and nominate awards. If an association has not paid more than three months after the expiration date, the association may be excluded from the WFD.
– Unfortunately, we risk getting fewer members next year, says Eeva Tupi.
On the question about how unpaid membership fees can be avoided in the future, Eeva Tupi answers that several steps need to be taken. The WFD needs to mark more powerfully that it takes a lot of work-time to send letters of reminder: working hours that could be better used for other things. Other steps would be to communicate more clearly that the WFD is totally dependent on donations, and to examine how they can get new revenues, such as through gifts. Another plan is that the WFD board proposes increased membership fees at the upcoming General Assembly in Paris, France in July 2019.
– The WFD is the only world federation dealing with the deaf's right to sign language. We all need to reflect about how we can continue the fight for the deaf's rights, says Eeva Tupi.
The Swedish National Association of the Deaf (SDR) lets the Swedish Deaf Magazine know that they paid the 2019 membership fee to the WFD last February.
TEXT: NICLAS MARTINSSON
TRANSLATION: ANGELINA NYSTRÖM
SWEDISH VERSION: Please click on this link